Famed Little City book fair moves closer to foundation’s Palatine campus

The nationally renowned used book sale that’s been a North Shore fixture since 1958 is entering a new era, and organizers acknowledge it’s a risky move.

Little City Foundation, which took over the literary extravaganza five years ago from a Brandeis University women’s group, opted to relocate next month’s Little City Book Fair from a Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center parking lot in Skokie to the Harper College gymnasium — just down the street from its Palatine campus.

“We’ve always wanted to move the book fair to our Little City neighborhood in order to be closer to people who support us on a daily basis,” spokesman Rick Johnson said.

In addition to the new location, the fundraiser is being cut from 10 days to a single weekend on Aug. 19-21. Organizers figure the bulk of the 8,000 or so attendees have traditionally visited the first few days anyway.

Staff at Little City, a not-for-profit organization that supports people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, hopes the benefits of holding the event in the agency’s backyard will outweigh the potential for a smaller turnout.

For one, the changes are expected to dramatically reduce overhead costs since Little City won’t have to rent tents and generators to house the 120,000 donated used books, which are divided into nearly 60 categories including Chicago, celebrity and collectors. The Palatine community college agreed to a discounted fee, as well.

The closer location also will allow Little City to rely on more of its regular volunteers, and staff won’t have to spend as much time off campus.

The event has raised about $200,000 each of the past few years, an amount Little City hopes to maintain in the wake of funding cuts. Johnson said it will likely be one of the foundation’s five most lucrative fundraisers of the year.

“We’d like to hit that but we’re being realistic,” Johnson said. “It’s a different time, a different day and different site.”

The event was previously organized by the Illinois North Shore Chapter of the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee, which donated the money to purchase materials for the university’s library in Waltham, Mass. Little City took control of the event after the group decided 2006 would be its last year due to an aging and diminished volunteer base.

Lin Wilson of Kenosha, Wis., hunts for rare books at the 2008 Little City Book Fair, which is being relocated from Skokie to Harper College in Palatine. Mark Welsh/Daily Herald, June 2008
Patrons browse thousands of books at last year’s Little City Book Fair, which is being relocated from Skokie to Harper College in Palatine. courtesy of little city

If you go

What: 2011 Little City Book Fair

Where: Harper College Gymnasium, Building M, Algonquin and Roselle roads, Palatine. Parking lots 1, 2, 12 and 13 are best.

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21.

Cost: Free, except for a $10 fee on Friday. Cash, personal checks and credit cards accepted.

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